Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Missionary Bob who survived firing squad captivates royals with harrowing tale

By Cate McCurry

Published 16/06/2016

Kate and Will enthralled by 91 year-old Belfast man's story of near-death experience
Kate and Will enthralled by 91 year-old Belfast man's story of near-death experience
Bob McAllister
The McAllister family in Congo in 1964

A man who narrowly cheated death after he was shot by a firing squad in the Congo presented copies of a documentary based on his life to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during their visit to Hillsborough Castle.

The royal couple were captivated by the story of Bob McAllister (91), from Belfast, during their lengthy chat at Tuesday's garden party as they listened to harrowing details of his near-death experience and his family's missionary work in the Congo.

The father-of-three set up home in the Democratic Republic of Congo with his late wife, Alma, in 1952.

The couple had two sons and a daughter and lived in a missionary village.

In 1964, a Congolese rebel group mercilessly ravaged the country, holding the Orientale province captive and generating an international hostage crisis.

When they reached the McAllisters' missionary village, they opened fire and killed Bob's friend and colleague, Hector McMillan, before shooting Bob himself.

The bullet grazed his forehead and the missionary fell to the floor, pretending to be dead.

The family suffered further attacks in later years, but chose to remain in the Congo to carry out the work of establishing churches in the area.

The network Bob and Alma helped to build provided the foundation of their son David's work in the Congo with Tearfund, a global relief and development charity.

Bob and Alma returned to Northern Ireland in 2009 and settled in Co Armagh before Alma's death soon after.

In November 2014, Bob returned to the country with his eldest son, Billy, and daughter Ruth to visit Hector's grave and attend a memorial service in Banalia to honour other missionaries who were murdered by the rebels.

The visit and his life as a missionary was subject of the BBC documentary, A Deadly Mission: Belfast to Congo.

Bob brought two copies of the to the garden party. He gave one to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to watch and requested that the other be given to the Queen - which Kate promised she would do.

Speaking after the event, Bob said the duchess expressed a lot of interest in the history of the country.

"The conversation went well," he added. "I asked Kate had she seen the documentary and she said she hadn't so I introduced the programme to her.

"They were interested in hearing about the Congo and the history of it all, and I told them my wife had been a midwife and that stirred up interest. We didn't have too much time to talk, but it was good.

"It was interesting for me because William was going along one line while Kate was going along my line, and when she heard about my Congo story she rushed over to where William was and brought him over so he could hear the conversation."

Bob said he had no immediate plans to visit the Congo again but ruled out moving back permanently. He currently lives in Armagh city, where he enjoys working with churches.

Bob added: "Nowadays, I take services in churches and mission halls, and (talk to) anyone who wants me to talk about the Lord's work in Africa and certainly the Congo. As for moving back to the Congo, I would not return to live at my age."

Belfast Telegraph

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph